Big teardrops splashed down Bobby’s cheeks as he watched Freddie and Dick lug Freddie’s wading pool over to Dick’s house. All the way home from school, the three boys had eagerly planned making a jungle hideout in a pile of dirt behind Dick’s garage. Dick’s father had said they could.
Freddie’s wading pool would be their hidden lake. The green branches Dick’s father had pruned from his shade trees would be the jungle trees. They would use their stuffed toys and odd-shaped rocks and pieces of bark for animals. Bobby knew where there was a crooked stick, streaked brown, that looked like a snake. He planned to put it on one of the trees for a huge python, just like in real jungles.
They were going to wear their shorts and go barefoot, like Tarzan. They’d creep through their jungle with bows and arrows, looking for wild animals. Oh, what fun they were going to have!
Bobby had rushed into his house to get a snack and to put on his shorts—and there, on the refrigerator door, was the note: DON‘T FORGET, BOBBY! Love, Mom.
He was so disappointed that he didn’t even look to see what she had left for a snack. Who’d feel like eating when he had to weed two rows of corn before he could play!
It didn’t help to remember that it was his own fault. He had fooled around all day Saturday while Dad, Mom, Susan, and Peggy did their weeding. Then, when he was about ready to start, who should come but Aunt Alice, Uncle John, Nick, and Michael.
“We’ll let it go for now. We mustn’t disappoint your cousins. They have come all the way from Bountiful to play with you,” Mother had said, adding firmly, “but you may not play after school Monday until your weeding is done.”
And there was the note to remind him.
Bobby started to cry. He felt awful. He felt even worse when he saw Freddie and Dick go by with the wading pool. They were going to make their jungle without him. And it was his own fault.
Trudging to the garden, he began pulling weeds. He started working fast, hoping to finish in time to play awhile before dinnertime. Then he remembered how Dad had told him to be extra careful to not injure the tender stalks of corn. He couldn’t work fast. He had to be careful.
When he looked down at the row of corn, it looked as long as a road that never ends. And he had two of those long rows to weed before he could play! He’d never get through in time to play jungle with his friends.
Bobby started to cry again, which, of course, only made matters worse—no weeds got pulled while he cried.
He noticed a shadow approaching and looked up. His father was standing behind him.
Usually Bobby was happy when Dad came home. But not today. If Dad was home already, it would soon be dinnertime. That meant no time at all for play.
“My boy seems upset,” Dad said.
Bobby tried to sniff back the tears.
“Those rows must look mighty long to you,” Dad guessed.
“Yes,” Bobby sobbed. “And Dick and Freddie are making a keen jungle—and I don’t get to help.”
“I know a trick,” Dad said.
“What kind of trick?”
“One that makes long rows grow shorter,” Dad answered, his eyes twinkling.
“No trick can do that.”
“Try it and see.” Dad tossed a small stick a little way down the row. “If you don’t look one bit farther than that stick, the row will grow shorter. Go on. Try it.”
Bobby started pulling weeds. In no time he had reached the stick.
“Now throw it a little farther down. But don’t look up,” Dad said.
This time Bobby seemed to reach the stick even faster. Dad tossed the stick again, and Bobby weeded to it. Again. Suddenly Bobby’s head almost touched the fence. He had reached the end of the row! “Wow! The row really did grow shorter!”
“Now do the other row the same way,” Dad suggested.
Bobby tossed the stick, then weeded to it. Again and again he tossed the stick and weeded to it. Then, as if by magic, he was through!
“Now look at the rows,” Dad said.
Bobby was amazed. The two rows weren’t shorter at all. They were as long as the other rows in the garden, just like before.
Then Bobby understood Dad’s “trick”: To make a job go faster, do it a piece at a time and work with a will. He looked up. The sun was still a long way from the mountain. Dad must have come home early. There was still time for play!
“Yippee!” he shouted. He gave Dad a big hug, hurried inside to change his pants, then got his “snake stick” and rushed to Dick’s yard to help transform a pile of dirt into a dark, mysterious jungle full of adventure and fun.